Travers glared at Spike, but didn’t miss the approval on the faces of the others in the room. He sighed deeply.
“I don’t doubt that you all feel quite justified in your ability to make this work without the benefit of the Council of Watchers. But given that we still exist in this time, and that we have resources about which you have no idea, surely you can see the wisdom of making use of what is already in place? I am more than willing to permit Buffy to be in charge of much of the training of all these newly-called slayers—”
“And Faith,” Buffy said. “She was my second-in-command, and after I left, it was all on her.”
Travers visibly struggled to control his expression, but failed miserably.
“I’m serious,” Buffy said. “In my time she had to break out of jail to come help us; this time, she came just because she knew we might need her. She’s a serious slayer, and the only one with almost as much experience as I have. And the girls will like her. They did in our time. I’m a little too…. rigid… for some of them.”
“You? You are too rigid?” Travers almost scoffed aloud.
“I’ve had to be the grown-up in the room a little too much of my life to remember what it’s like to have fun. And, slayers or not, teen-age girls need fun in their lives. Faith is fun. I’m not. Dying can do that to you. It’s not a big deal, but she can sometimes reach them when I can’t. And she’s a good slayer. She’ll be helping me with the girls,” Buffy finished with a finality that wasn’t lost on anyone in the room.
She and the others watched with interest as the Head of the Council of Watchers absorbed that the two oldest slayers, who intended to be in charge of training new recruits, were also two of the most rebellious and disobedient slayers on record. Spike was openly grinning at the visible battle being waged inside the man’s head, while Giles and Wes did their best to hide their own amusement.
“I see,” Travers finally managed to choke out. “And exactly how do you and Faith plan to do this training and overseeing of these hundreds of slayers?”
Without missing a beat, Buffy said, “In our time, Giles was still looking for a permanent site to put our slayer school and the Slayers and Watchers Council Headquarters we’d set up. Turns out the old Council of Watchers had a lot of money squirrelled away….” She blinked innocently at Travers, then continued, “He’d found an old school of some sort, and was about to buy it for us. It would have been big enough for both the slayers and watchers in training, with lots of room indoors and outdoors; and it was close enough to a small city to give the girls something to do on their time off, as well as provide a few cemeteries to patrol.”
She paused to let that sink in.
“The plan was to provide the world with small groups of slayers anywhere there was a need, and with at least one watcher to assist them with research and planning. We’d already put a few squads of experienced and trained slayers in places like Cleveland—”
She grinned at Travers’ obvious surprise that she was aware of the much smaller and less active Cleveland hellmouth.
“—and two other places where there seemed to be enough vampiric activity that they could use some relief. We had a few experienced watchers who survived the destruction of the Council buildings, so we could give them a little adult help while they were getting set up. You know, find a safe place to live, set up a bank account for the squad—things like that.”
Buffy looked at Giles and said, “We’re going to want to get on those places right away, now that we’ve got some experienced slayers to put out there.”
Ignoring Travers’ frown, she added, “Of course, now we’ve got Sarah, so I need to get her thoughts on how we put a Guardian into the mix.”
“You cannot do this without the Council!” Travers finally exploded in anger.
Buffy frowned at him. “Well, it’s going to be harder, now that we don’t have access to the Council’s money, so no way to pay the girls, but—”
Keep it up, love. You’ll cause him to have a stroke yet.”
His tone was amused, but Buffy knew Spike could tell from Travers’ heart rate and breathing how close the man was to having some sort of medical event. Buffy persisted, but in a much more conciliatory tone.
“Well, yes, pay them. It’s not like they’re going to be able to hold down real jobs, even minimum wage ones.” She stopped talking and frowned. “And I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, speaking of things Giles might have mentioned I had to do in my time….”
Travers nodded his head, indicating he knew at least something about her financial issues in her own time.
“By that time, you had already outlived most slayers to have been called that young. No one ever expected slayers to have to support themselves, never mind take care of younger siblings. Hence the placing of as many potentials as possible with watchers, who are paid rather handsomely to take care of their charges. I’m sure, if I’d had any idea you were in such dire financial straits….”
“You didn’t expect her to live past her 18th birthday, you bloody hypocritical bastard,” Spike snarled, ignoring Buffy’s silent Spike… “You had plenty of opportunities in our timeline to offer her a salary, or some help. You knew about Dawn, you knew when Joyce died, and after Buffy was dragged back from her reward, you bloody well knew when Rupert left her here to cope on her own while he scampered back to the Mother Country!”
Travers flinched, seemingly as much from Spike’s words as his visible fangs, but he waved a restraining hand at Charles. Turning his gaze on Giles, he said, “You left her here alone? With her mother dead, and with her undoubtedly traumatized by being pulled from her well-earned rest to continue fighting? How could you, man? You were a watcher!”
There was a complete, shocked silence in the room as everyone stared at the man they’d all thought was a heartless, power-hungry, potential thorn in their sides. Only Winston, who’d known a slightly different version of Quentin Travers was nodding as if not surprised.
In a quiet voice, he said, “You must remember that this Rupert Giles did not leave Buffy, but remained here to support her and Spike as they went about trying to avoid some of the deaths and other unfortunate events that occurred in the original timeline. Just as you seem sure you would have responded appropriately to Buffy’s situation, it’s only fair to point out that in both her time and mine, you did not do so. Nor did you object to Rupert’s returning home in order to encourage Buffy to be less dependent upon him. It certainly didn’t occur to me to wonder at it.” He shook his head, adding, “I think we should all be grateful that we’ve been given this chance to be appalled at ourselves, and an opportunity to behave differently.”
Buffy looked around the table, taking in the ashamed expressions worn by everyone except Wesley and Spike. She felt mildly embarrassed at being the object of so much sympathy and pity, but smiled at Spike when he sent her a satisfied smirk.
You did that on purpose, didn’t you?
Maybe? He had it comin’, acting all self-righteous and whatnot.
Travers heaved a large sigh before responding to Winston.
“Quite right you are. For whatever reason, in their timeline I was apparently as unconcerned about Buffy’s well-being as anyone. All I can do now, is offer my sincere apologies for my behavior in your time, and my promise to make up for it when and how I can.” He frowned.
“If you don’t mind, how did you manage to cope? If I understood what Willow was going through, it doesn’t seem as if she would have been able to offer much support, financially or otherwise. Surely you had someone you could rely on?”
Buffy’s gaze went immediately to Spike and remained there until she was sure everyone had received the message. Then she smiled and nodded.
“I did. And he did his best to be there for me. Unfortunately, I was so sure a soulless vampire couldn’t love—even though his behavior while I was dead was proof that he could—that I didn’t allow him to help me financially. But I survived, and I got better mentally because he was there for me—even when I didn’t want him to be.”
She walked over to Spike and put her arms around him, smiling up at his surprised face.
“He was my way back into the world when I just wanted it to go away.”
She gave them some time to absorb that, then, with a light squeeze, she let go and turned around.
“Now where were we… oh yeah. We were talking about making sure the new slayers have somewhere to live and money for food and stuff, weren’t we?” She beamed at the men around the table, ending with Travers. “All we have to worry about right now, is Cleveland. I was thinking I’d let Faith take a group of slayers there and help them get settled in and figure out where the hellmouth is. So, they’ll need a place to live, and travel expenses, and—”
Travers held up his hand to stop her. “Due to the hellmouth there, we have both a potential—now an active, I presume—slayer and an experienced watcher already there. I will contact him immediately and have him find a place for more slayers to stay.” With an expression that might almost have been called amused, he added, “And that he is now responsible for several more of them.”
“Sounds good,” Buffy said. “So, if you don’t need me any more, I want to go back to the Guardian House and go over some things with Sara and Willow.”
As she started to walk away, leaving Spike to return to the basement and his implied mode of daylight travel, Travers cleared his throat.
“If it is all right with Mr. Pratt… and you, I should like very much to speak with him. As the only person in the room who was a witness to the events leading up to his rather spectacular demise, I’m sure he can fill in some missing information for me, freeing you to attend to other things.”
Buffy glanced at Spike, who shrugged. “You go on, love. I’ll catch up later.”
Shooting Charles a slayer glare in case he was thinking about taking advantage of her absence to try to stake Spike, Buffy nodded and continued toward the door.
“Call me if you have any questions Spike or Winston can’t answer.”
Spike pulled out a chair and straddled it, facing the table with his back to the room. He exchanged a quick look with Winston, who nodded that any hostile move on the part of Charles would result in his sudden inability to move at all. Comfortable he wouldn’t have to make use of the Gem to remain undusty, Spike relaxed and waited for Travers to proceed.
“You are a very unusual vampire,” he said finally. “Completely atypical.”
“Always have been.”
“I find it quite intriguing that a member of the Scourge of Europe, steeped in the depravity and horror for which they were famous, could become someone a slayer could find comfort in and rely upon.” The look on Spike’s face was not hiding his impatience, and Travers continued on quickly.
“I’m curious as to what behavior of yours while she was dead, should have made her realize your devotion was real, soul or no soul.” He waited for Spike to answer.
Somewhat reluctantly, Spike said simply, “I made a promise, didn’t I? Told her I’d protect Dawn until the end of the world. Didn’t really expect Buffy to die, though. I thought it would probably be me… but it wasn’t.” A look of pain flashed across his face before he continued. “And after I sobered up, I remembered my promise. The Bit, and Buffy’s mum, had always been on my list of people I care about. Probably would have hung around to take care of her anyway, promise or no promise.”
“And how did you do that? Take care of her, I mean.”
Winston spoke up when it seemed Spike wasn’t going to respond. “If I might add to Spike’s story, he took over patrolling for Buffy, keeping, not just her sister, but her watcher and her brave, but foolish, friends safe as they tried to keep her death a secret from vampires and demons by keeping the numbers down.” He smiled at Spike. “He could have left town, found himself a doctor to remove the chip, or minions to kill for him, and gone back to being who and what he was before he fell in love with Buffy. But he didn’t. He stayed, and by patrolling with her friends, he protected them and, by extension, the entire human population of Sunnydale.”
Even Charles looked impressed when Winston stopped talking. Spike cleared his throat in embarrassment.
“Yeah, well, somebody had to see that they didn’t get themselves killed every night,” he muttered. “I mean, it’s not like I knew she’d be back to take over Dawn’s care, or like the Scoobies were doing all that good a job. And Rupert didn’t hang around, so—”
Before Travers could berate him again, Giles said, “I believe, in spite of my no longer being in the employ of the Council, you essentially ordered me to leave the hellmouth, saying I no longer had a slayer to watch, and that her sister was not my responsibility. At least, that’s what Buffy seems to think happened.”
Spike’s growl was audible to everyone. Then he relaxed. “Sorry, Rupes,” he said. “Wasn’t you. And leaving the Scoobies on their own is what gave the witch the freedom to carry out the resurrection.”
Spike stared at Travers, who was making to attempt to hide his astonishment, and gave the man a rueful smile.
“That resurrection was just as hard on Buffy as you’re thinkin’ it was. I never wanted to see her as unhappy or lost as she was after being pulled out of Heaven. But I’d be lying through my fangs if I said I was sorry it happened. She was here. Pulled out by her best friend, and brought back to a world that had already asked too bloody much of her, but she was here. Could never be sorry about that.”
“You weren’t expecting it?”
“Red didn’t share her plan with Dawn or me. Probably didn’t want to disappoint Dawn if it didn’t work—and knew I’d understand what dark magics would be involved in something like that and was afraid I’d try to stop her.”
Travers nodded his head. “It could have gone incredibly wrong. For everyone.”
“Could have. Didn’t. The only person it was wrong for was Buffy. And she was able to get over it… eventually.”
“With your help,” Travers said.
“Did what I could. Wasn’t enough all the time, but I did what I could.” Spike stood up and blew out an explosive breath. “Think I’ve had about all I care to with reminiscing about bad times. Winnie here can tell you more about what happened after we closed the hellmouth. Setting up the Slayer and Watcher Council and what not. Was pretty much the same in his timeline as mine, and he was there to see it.”
Without more of a good-bye, he waved a hand and disappeared down the stairs to the basement, leaving the head of the current Council staring at Winston.
Meanwhile, Buffy had gone back to the Guardian House to find the slayers gathered around Faith and listening to her tales of Kakistos, Trick, the Mayor, and assorted demons and vampires she’d found in LA.
Buffy rolled her eyes, but laughed as she walked past them to find Sara and discuss how they were going to incorporate guardians back into the world of slayers. She found Sara smiling indulgently at Willow, who was looking positively giddy.
“Whoa, witchy lady! What’s up?”
Willow beamed at Buffy. “I just talked to Tara!”
Buffy wanted to frown, but forced herself to look more pleased. “Did you?” she said. “How is she?”
Buffy knew full well how Tara was, as Max heard from her frequently, but she expressed polite interest as if Willow didn’t know that.
“She’s great. She’s really happy, loves the coven, and feels like she’s learning to be an awesome healer.”
“Well, that’s… that’s great.” She cocked her head at Willow. “I think it’s wonderful that you can be so happy for her. You’ve come a long way. I’m proud of you.”
Willow flushed and looked away for a moment before turning back to Buffy.
“Yeah, well, I am happy for her. She sounds very enthusiastic about all the things she’s learning to do to help people. But, the reason I’m so excited is because she said she misses me.” Willow lifted her chin defiantly, saying, “We’re going to be talking. She wants to spend more time there, and I’ve got to learn all about being a Guardian, but we’ll be talking to each other more often and maybe, someday….” She exhaled loudly. “Baby steps. We’ll be taking baby steps, but someday….”
“I think that’s wonderful, Willow. Baby steps are good. Talking is good. I’m happy for you…. and for Tara.” Although Buffy tried to school her expression into one of cautious optimism, some of her concern must have shown through.
“Nothing’s set in stone yet,” Willow said quickly. “But we’re talking. No expectations, just testing the waters.”
Buffy hugged Willow. “No expectations is good. I just don’t want you to get hurt—and not because I worry about what you’ll do, but because I love you and I don’t want you to be unhappy.”
“I’ll be fine, Willow said as she hugged Buffy back. “I’ve got too much to do here not to be fine.”
“Okay then.” Sara brought their attention to her. “We’ve got some plans to make, haven’t we?”
Buffy nodded. “We do. Starting with which girls we want to send with Faith to the Cleveland hellmouth…”
After a couple of hours of discussion with Sarah and Willow, and then Faith, once Buffy had explained about wanting her to get a squad set up in Cleveland, they felt they had pretty well hashed out their first moves for the new slayers. Priority was given to seeing the new slayers comfortable in their jobs, and placed where they could do the most good.
It was Faith’s idea that the slayers not immediately needed elsewhere could make themselves available to talk with newly-called girls. They could explain that there would eventually be a school, but in the meantime, they could come to Sunnydale for training and to meet Buffy and Faith to learn more about being a slayer. As well as the fact that if they didn’t want to be one, there would be someone there who could de-activate them. She rolled her eyes at the idea of anyone not wanting to have super powers, but agreed they should have a choice.
“Not like us, right, B?”
“Exactly. Not like us. Not unless they want to be.” She frowned as a thought occurred to her.
“You’re going to meet the resident slayer… and her watcher. Are you all right with that?” Buffy asked Faith as they talked about her helping the girls get set up at the Cleveland hellmouth.
“I can handle some tweediness for long enough to get my girls squared away. Any idea what we’re going to be using for money?”
Buffy grimaced. “Um… I’m working on Travers, but he’s still choking on the idea of paying slayers. He’s going to have to pay us—you and me—but maybe, if there are enough watchers to go around for a while, I can get him to agree to let them handle the money, as long as the girls are taken care of and get an allowance or something.” She sighed. “It’ll probably be a work-in-progress for a while, but this version of Travers isn’t quite as big a pain in the ass as the one I knew, so maybe it’ll be all right… eventually.”
“Meanwhile, what are you gonna be doing?”
“I’m going to try to find a place not too far away where we can build a school for the slayers.”
“You think the head tweed is going to give you money for that?” Faith scoffed.
“No. I’m sure he isn’t. Spike and I… we can get money. We haven’t spent very much, other than for the wedding and stuff like that. I think we can come up with enough to buy some land and make a start on it.”
“What don’t I know about you and your honey? And how can I get in on it?” Faith raised her eyebrows and waited for an answer.
Buffy shrugged. “We can probably find the money,” she said. “That’s all I can really tell you right now. I have to talk to Spike first. He’s the money guy.”
“Sexy and rich. Wow.”
“And mine,” Buffy said in a near growl.
Faith just laughed. “Yeah, I got that when I noticed the neck decorations. Relax, B. I was just admiring, not coveting.”
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